Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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Plaintiffs-respondents Virgil and Glenda Jensen contended they suffered damages caused by a negligently maintained rental truck, rented by his supervisor, Charles Scannell, which blew a tire while Virgil was driving it. Defendant-appellant U-Haul Co. of California (UHCA) appealed the trial court’s denial of its motion to compel arbitration. UHCA contended plaintiffs were bound by the arbitration agreement in the rental contract, even though neither plaintiff was a party to that contract. The Court of Appeal’s review of plaintiffs’ complaint showed that plaintiffs did not rely or depend on the terms of the rental in asserting their claims, and none of their allegations were in any way founded in or bound up with the terms or obligations of that agreement. UHCA, citing to general principles and cases that it contended were analogous, argued that plaintiffs were bound to arbitrate their claims, even though they are not signatories to the agreement between Scannell and UHCA, on any of three theories: third-party beneficiary, agency, or estoppel. The Court of Appeal was not persuaded and affirmed the trial court. View "Jensen v. U-Haul Co. of California" on Justia Law

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David Skillin brought a Private Attorneys General Act lawsuit against his former employer Rady Children's Hospital of San Diego (Rady) for alleged violations of the California Labor Code. Skillin claimed Rady made unauthorized payroll deductions from his wages, resulting in higher than desired contributions to his retirement plan. He also claimed Rady issued inaccurate wage statements by failing to show the amounts deducted for retirement "on written orders of the employee." The trial court granted summary judgment in Rady's favor, concluding Skillin's claims were preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). The court found preemption under ERISA section 514(a); it did not, however, find preemption under ERISA section 514(e), which applied to state laws that "directly or indirectly prohibit or restrict the inclusion in any plan of an automatic contribution arrangement." The Court of Appeal affirmed, finding Skillin's claims were preempted under subdivision (a) of section 514 and plainly preempted under subdivision (e) of that same section. View "Skillin v. Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego" on Justia Law

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Appellant Dr. Robert Fettgather appealed a trial court order denying his petition for writ of administrative mandamus. His petition challenged the revocation of his license to practice psychology by Respondent California Board of Psychology. The trial court denied Fettgather’s petition on the ground that the only relevant inquiry before the Board was whether Fettgather failed to comply with an order for an examination under Business and Professions Code section 820. The trial court also found that “[t]he evidence in the record unquestionably establishes that petitioner failed to submit to the examination that had been ordered in this case.” Fettgather argued he should have been permitted to challenge the merits of the section 820 order before he was required to comply with it. He also argued that revocation of his license pursuant to section 821 for his failure to undergo a section 820 examination was unlawful. After review, the Court of Appeal held the Board was not required to show good cause for a section 820 order nor was a licensee entitled to challenge the basis for the order before submitting to the required examination. "It follows that the question of good cause supporting such an order is not relevant to a revocation of Fettgather’s license for noncompliance with the section 820 order. This strikes the appropriate balance between the public and private interests." Accordingly, the Court affirmed the trial court's order. View "Fettgather v. Board of Psychology" on Justia Law

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A labor union and several employees sued an employer, alleging the employer failed to provide notice before ordering about 90 employees not to return to work for four to five weeks. Under a California law known as the California WARN Act, employers must provide 60 days' notice to affected employees before ordering a "mass layoff." The employer countered that the California WARN Act was inapplicable because its action was a temporary furlough and not a "mass layoff." All parties recognized there was no liability under the parallel federal WARN Act because the federal law applied to a temporary layoff only if the layoff "exceed[s] 6 months." On cross summary judgment/adjudication motions, the parties primarily raised the issue of whether the employer had a statutory duty to notify the affected employees even though the layoff was temporary, rather than permanent. The superior court concluded the California WARN Act applied; and therefore the employer owed a statutory notification duty to the affected workers. The court thus granted summary adjudication in plaintiffs' favor on this issue. The court then held a one-day bench trial on damages issues, the result of which was that judgment was entered in plaintiffs' favor, and awarded the workers $211,405 in backpay and lost pension benefits. On appeal, the employer contended the court erred in interpreting the California WARN Act as applying to temporary layoffs. Based on its analysis of the statutory language, statutory scheme, legislative history, federal WARN law, and policies underlying the California WARN Act, the Court of Appeal determined the employer had a duty to provide statutory notice under the particular circumstances of this case, even if the layoffs were not permanent and were for less than six months. View "Internat. Brotherhood of Boilermakers etc. v. NASSCO etc." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff's second amended complaint (SAC) against the school district, holding that plaintiff's grievance, filed pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement, did not satisfy the claim filing requirements of the Government Claims Act. In this case, it was undisputed that plaintiff never filed a claim with the school district on a government claim form. The court held that the trial court properly sustained the school district's demurrer to the SAC on the basis that plaintiff failed to comply with the requirements of the Government Claims Act and plaintiff's noncompliance was not excused based on substantial compliance, the instant matter involving a "claim as presented," and futility. View "Olson v. Manhattan Beach Unified School District" on Justia Law

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An agreement to arbitrate a Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA) claim, entered into before an employee is statutorily authorized to bring such a claim on behalf of the state, is an unenforceable predispute waiver. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court properly denied a petition to compel arbitration of respondents' claim under PAGA. In this case, any agreement by respondents was entered into before they were authorized to bring a PAGA claim. View "Julian v. Glenair, Inc." on Justia Law

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Francisco Diaz was employed as a tree trimmer by Professional Community Management, Inc. (“PCM”) for many years. He filed his complaint against it in October 2014, stating various causes of action arising out of PCM’s alleged failure to reasonably accommodate the workplace restrictions imposed by his doctor, its alleged retaliation, and its alleged wrongful termination of his employment. PCM answered the complaint in December 2014, denying the allegations and pleading 24 affirmative defenses. The 24th affirmative defense alleged that Diaz’s complaint “and each cause of action, is barred by [his] failure to exhaust contractual remedies available to him, including, but not limited to, the grievance and arbitration procedure under the collective bargaining agreement between [PCM] and [Diaz’s] collective bargaining representative.” PCM unilaterally orchestrated the issuance of an appealable order by: (1) applying ex parte, a mere 11 days before trial, for an order shortening time to hear its motion to compel arbitration; (2) voluntarily submitting a proposed order to the trial court that not only reflected the court’s denial of the ex parte application (the only ruling reflected in the trial court’s own minute order) but also included a denial of the motion on the merits; and (3) promptly appealing that order, which then stayed the scheduled trial. The Court of Appeal concluded PCM carefully tailored the order it proposed the trial court issue, incorporating what it characterized as the trial court’s reasons for rejecting the summary judgment motion, and excluding any mention of issues that might distract from that analysis. PCM continued its aggressive strategy on appeal, contending Diaz was precluded from arguing that PCM had waived its right to compel arbitration. According to PCM, Diaz could not make that argument because the trial court’s premature denial of the motion to compel (at PCM’s request) meant Diaz never argued waiver in an opposition to the motion; and because the order PCM drafted did not reflect the trial court had relied on it as a basis for denying the motion. Instead, PCM claimed Diaz was relegated to defending the court’s ruling based solely on the analysis PCM crafted in its proposed order, and that the Court of Appeal assess the propriety of that order based solely on that analysis. The Court of Appeal concluded that PCM invited the trial court’s alleged error when it proposed the court issue the very ruling it now challenged on appeal. “By doing that, PCM won the battle - it got the court to issue the appealable order it sought, prior to trial - but it lost the war.” A party that invites the trial court to commit error is estopped from challenging that error on appeal. The Court concluded PCM and its counsel acted in bad faith, generating an appealable order they knew the trial court had not intended to issue at the ex parte hearing, for the purpose of obtaining a delay of trial. It imposed monetary sanctions against PCM and its counsel for bringing a frivolous appeal. View "Diaz v. Professional Community Management, Inc." on Justia Law

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Grace Walker appealed a superior court judgment denying her petition for a writ of administrative mandamus. The petition asked the court to set aside a decision of the Physical Therapy Board of California (the "Board") that subjected Walker to discipline based on a misdemeanor hit-and-run conviction and the Board's finding she had used alcohol in a manner dangerous to herself or others. The superior court concluded the misdemeanor conviction was not an appropriate ground for discipline because it was not sufficiently related to Walker's fitness to practice physical therapy, but that discipline was appropriate pursuant to Business and Professions Code sections 2239 and 2660 based on Walker's use of alcohol in a dangerous manner. On appeal, Walker argued the court erred because the statutes did not permit discipline of a physical therapist based on a single isolated instance of alcohol use in a dangerous manner without a specific finding of a nexus between the conduct at issue and the fitness of the individual to practice physical therapy. The Court of Appeal concluded sections 2239 and 2260 did permit the Board to impose discipline in this context and affirm the judgment. View "Walker v. Physical Therapy Bd. of California" on Justia Law

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Jameson started working at Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) in 1985. In 2012, Nelson reported safety violations at sites supervised by Jameson. Nelson subsequently complained of harassment and retaliation. Jameson admitted contacting others to spread complaints about Nelson. PG&E concluded that Jameson engaged in retaliation and terminated his employment. He sued for wrongful termination and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, alleging PG&E fired him in violation of an implied-in-fact employment contract not to terminate his employment without good cause. The trial court granted PG&E summary judgment on the basis that Jameson failed to demonstrate the existence of a triable issue of material fact as to the existence of an implied employment contract. The court of appeal affirmed. Regardless of whether Jameson was an at-will employee, PG&E established it had good cause to terminate him. It employed an adequate procedure to investigate Nelson’s allegations and reasonably decided to terminate Jameson on the basis of that investigation. Jameson failed to present sufficient evidence to establish a triable issue of fact that PG&E’s decision was biased or procedurally inadequate. View "Jameson v. Pacific Gas and Electric Co." on Justia Law

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In this case, we deny relief on a petition for review of an award of benefits made by the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB). In 2006, while working at Pearson Ford, Leopoldo Hernandez accidentally slammed the trunk of a car on his left hand and crushed one of his fingers. Although no bones in his hand were broken, he was unable to continue working at Pearson Ford because of continuing pain in his hand and shoulder. Hernandez applied for and received workers' compensation benefits. Pearson Ford's workers' compensation carrier retained the services of a private investigator, who conducted video surveillance of Hernandez following each of the three visits to his doctor in early 2010. Following each visit, Hernandez was observed taking off his sling, using his left hand to get in and out of his truck or a car, using his left hand to steer his truck or car, and on one occasion stopping at a grocery store and using his left hand to carry a bag of groceries. After the investigator witnessed other instances of Hernandez using his allegedly injured left hand, the carrier notified the district attorney, who in turn, commenced its own investigation. In specified circumstances, a worker who engages in criminal fraud in attempting to recover workers' compensation benefits and is convicted of doing so is thereafter barred from recovering benefits growing out of the fraud. However, in given circumstances where, independent of any fraud, a worker is able to establish his or her entitlement to benefits, benefits may be awarded. Here, the WCAB found evidence, independent of a worker's fraud, that he had suffered a compensable injury and was entitled to benefits. In doing so the WCAB relied on the determination of a medical expert. The Court of Appeal found no error in the WCAB's determination the workers' claim was not barred by the eventual misdemeanor conviction for workers' compensation fraud and in the WCAB's adoption of the expert's finding of a permanent disability. The Court denied the petitioner any relief on its petition asking that it vacate the WCAB's award. View "Pearson Ford v. Workers' Comp. Appeals Bd." on Justia Law